Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The 10 Worst Albums Of 2011

Putting together a list of the year's worst albums was a daunting task. It involved re-listening to a bunch of aural abominations on the off-chance I was too harsh the first time around. Like last year when I included Taylor Swift's "Speak Now" and then had egg on my face when I re-visited it a couple of months ago and decided that Tay Tay's mega-seller was actually a triumph. However, I'm confident that I haven't made the same mistake this year! All ten of these albums give music a bad name and should be avoided at all costs. If you think I've forgotten anything let me know in the comments. And for the record - there is no "Born This Way". It's not brilliant but I'll take 4 or 5 good songs over none any day.

10. Soy La Mejor - Malena Gracia

Malena is the Spanish equivalent of Samantha Fox - only with no hits. That doesn't stop the former Playboy model applying (unsuccessfully) to represent Spain at Eurovision every year or her ability to churn out inane dance music at an alarming rate. I usually worship the ground this icon walks on but "Soy La Mejor" is so horrendously bad that even I have to draw the line somewhere. This entire album sounds like it was recorded in one take on Malena's busted iPhone. Avoid at all costs.

9. Siberia - Lights

Sometimes I hate bloggers. Along comes a pretty girl with a canny stylist and a couple of decent electro-pop songs and suddenly she's the next Robyn. Wrong. I simply refuse to join the frenzied circle jerk over this dire Canadian flop. With the exception of "Toes" and "Banner", Lights' debut album is as pretentious and mind-numbingly boring as her name. Come back, Annie. All is forgiven!

8. Wonder World - Wonder Girls

This makes me sad. The Wonder Girls were always my favourite K-Pop act and I was pulling for them to make it big in America. But if you want to be a success outside of Asia, then you need to leave the gimmicks behind and make music that matches (or preferably exceeds) the current international standard. Instead, the Korean stunners release a bunch of songs that Girls Aloud would have rejected in 2007. There isn't a fresh or interesting idea to be heard on this stilted mess. Give me "Spice World" any day.

7. Secret Codes And Battleships - Darren Hayes

While "Bloodstained Heart" is undoubtedly one of 2011's better singles, the rest of this meandering mess is Rufus Wainwright-lite for tiresome homosexuals of a certain age that don't know better. It's not too late for that Savage Garden reunion...
6. Vows - Kimbra

Kimbra is the real deal. I know it and so does anybody else with ears. She has a great voice and knows how to write a killer pop song (see "Settle Down"). So can someone please explain why I can only make it through the Kiwi's much-hyped debut with the aid of Valium and half a bottle of wine? "Vows" reminds me of Bic Runga's "Birds" - only without the melodies and raw emotional connection. What you're left with is pretty enough but ultimately unengaging and completely forgettable.

5. Cinderella's Eyes - Nicola Roberts

A stinking pile of fake hipster shit that makes Nadine Coyle's Tesco-only smash sound like "The Fame". Give up while you're behind.

4. Snapshots - Kim Wilde

I love Kim. She is a legend and I'll keep importing her stunning German releases until she throws in the towel but there's no excuse for "Snapshots". This abomination finds the English diva destroying classic pop songs by the likes of East 17's ("It's Alright") and Tasmin Archer ("Sleeping Satellite"). The thing that annoys me the most is that this could have been enormous fun. Instead, the weird arrangements and sombre mood make this a truly depressing experience.

3. + - Ed Sheeran

Who anointed this ginger cunt the new James Blunt?

2. Lulu - Metallica & Lou Reed

I was forced to review this insane mess for my day job and the task still haunts me. If Lou Reed mumbling bad poetry over Metallica songs is your cup of tea, then knock yourself out. The rest of us will just pretend that "Lulu" never happened.

1. Talk That Talk - Rihanna

The She By Shereé of pop albums.

Jumpstart 2012 With New Luciana

A couple of weeks ago I posted Luciana's new anthem and now the undisputed Queen of clubs has dropped the visual for "Jump" - just in time for your new year's eve party! I really love the song and think it could be the next "We No Speak Americano", so I'm happy the video is something of a blockbuster. Buildings receive major structural damage from a football and Luci appears on a vintage TV screen. That's about it but the finished product is a lot more exciting than I made it sound. I promise! To be honest, the concept is a bit of a mystery to me. Some choreography would have been nice but I guess clubbers would prefer to see CGI soccer balls while pinging these days. Anyway, check it out and download "Jump" from iTunes now. This is the perfect summer anthem!


Monday, December 19, 2011

La Toya Conquers Mexico

Forget Beyoncé at the Billboard Music Awards. Ignore Adele at the Brits. The most accomplished live(-ish) performance of 2011 belongs to La Toya Jackson! Janet's prettier sister brought Mexico to a standstill last night when she graced the finale of La Academia - think X Factor on acid - with her legendary presence and raised the bar for popular music to previously unimagined heights by delivering a flawless mimed rendition of her 2004 top 20 US club smash "Just Wanna Dance".

I feel like I have been waiting my whole life to see empress Toy mouth the lyrics "shaking my ass with lots of class". And it was definitely worth the wait. Living up to her title as the world's sexiest woman, the ageless beauty drew gasps of adoration from the crowd when she appeared on stage with her gaggle of semi-competent dancers. The next four minutes flew by in a blaze of finger clicks, hip-shaking and exquisite miming that basically ended Britney' career then and there.

Make sure you stay tuned for the amazing post-performance interview in which La Toya claims to be the creative force behind Michael's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". I think we can all agree that Mexico got well and truly rocked!


The 20 Worst Videos Of 2011

Now this was hard. 2011 was a great year for really, really bad videos. I feel like people have just given up and either recycle something that took their fancy on YouTube or go for shock tactics by stripping off. Or both if you're Kelly Rowland. To make matters worse, Australia appears to be the world leader in shitty clips. If it was hot ten years ago in America, chances are you got the local equivalent this year. Yay? Admittedly, it's not all doom and gloom. Some of these efforts are hilarious and I think the winning/losing clip is a work of comedic genius. Let me know what you make of my choices in the comments!

20. Collide - Leona Lewis (Video)

Nobody wanted to see this horse-faced cunt in a bikini.

19. Unicorn - Pattyboy (Video)

New Zealand's King of Pop/self-proclaimed male Lady Gaga has polluted YouTube with some truly shocking videos. However, he is trying harder to be less rubbish and "Unicorn" is a step in the right direction - albeit not a big enough one. The toilet-paper outfit, bad choreography and ridiculous marriage to himself earn Pattyboy a spot on this list.

18. What Do You Take Me For? - Pixie Lott Feat. Pusha T (Video)

I know that it's fashionable to hate Pixie but I think her album is stunning. Haters are clearly intimidated by her powerful pipes and flawless beauty. Or perhaps they just saw this stinker. Who decided it was a good idea to turn Miss Lott into the prissy, white Beyoncé - complete with pussy-poppin' hood video? Possibly the least convincing urban transformation of all time.

17. The Edge Of Glory - Lady Gaga (Video)

And the award for the year's most disappointing video goes to "The Edge Of Glory". This is perhaps the only song on "Born This Way" that really lends itself to a meandering, over-the-top production. Everything about Fernando Garibay's anthem is epic - from the massive chorus to the now iconic sax solo. I wanted to see Lady Gaga drive off a cliff on a pink motorcycle and then use the pearly gates as a stripper pole when she landed in heaven. Instead, we get the Germ dancing on a fire escape. That's it. Literally.

16. Super Soaker - Bombs Away (Video)

A boat full of rough bitches shake their tits for attention in this desperate bid to attract the lowest common denominator. Imagine the "Home Girls" section of Picture magazine come to life.

15. When I Think About Sex - Osvaldo Suppino (Video)

Osvaldo is to Italy, what Pattyboy is to New Zealand ie. an epically untalented homosexual, who has spent far too many hours watching Lady Gaga videos on YouTube. The result is a showcase of bad fashion - a bedazzled Lakers singlet? - and worse choreography. The lowlight is when the budding pop star has sex with himself. Gross.

14. Get Together - Marta Sanchez (Video)

I stan for Marta. The Spanish Madonna has been a desperate publicity whore since before your fave was born, so she deserves our respect. But she's not going to get it when she's dancing around the club like a mutton-dressed-as-lamb stripper in some of the least flattering outfits ever captured on film. The Catwoman mask kills me. Marta, it's not hiding those wrinkles. It just makes you look like a victim of early onset dementia.

13. Not My Daddy - Eva (Video)

Eva must have the hottest mouth in LA. That's the only explanation I can think of for her amazing ability to get a record deal in the first place - let alone a song written by Ke$ha and a remix featuring Gucci Mane. Unfortunately, the plus-sized diva didn't get quite enough cash for the video. Bad special effects combine with cheap outfits and Eva's nasty feet to make this offering memorably awful.

12. Marry The Night - Lady Gaga (Video)

The time has come for Lady Gaga to take a year off. She is starting to suffer from diminishing returns both commercially and artistically. If you need proof look no further than "Marry The Night". It flopped miserably around the world and boasts perhaps her worst video yet. This self-indulgent vanity project is almost unwatchable. I enjoy the choreography towards the end but until someone edits it down to 5 minutes, I can't be bothered sitting through it again.

11. Lay It On Me - Kelly Rowland (Video)

You know, if Ms Kelly needs to act like a prostitute to sell records - then so be it. I love "Motivation" and think she looked incredibly sexy in the video. But let's just say lightning didn't strike twice. This scene-by-scene remake of Livvi Franc's "Now I'm That Bitch" is embarrassing. Kelendria looks like a man from certain angles and the onslaught of phallic imagery turns the clip into a parody. On the bright side, it's still a hot song.

10. The Reckoning - The Getaway Plan (Video)

You know your career is running on empty when you have to murder children to get attention.

9. Hold It Against Me - Britney Spears (Video)

What an horrendous way to launch a new album! This tragic mess highlighted everything that's wrong with Britney circa 2011 - the dead look in her eyes, her seeming inability to move and a palpable desperation to remind fans of former glories. No wonder "Femme Fatale" is yet to go Copper in most territories.

8. Radioactive - Brandon Hilton (Video)

If you thought Pattyboy and Osvaldo were sent straight from the bowels of hell, wait 'til you get a look at Brandon Hilton. The aspiring web celebrity turns delusion into an artform on "Radioactive". From the Gaga-lite fashion to Brandon's unfortunate facial expressions, everything about this video is cheap and overwhelmingly nasty.

7. Raining Diamonds - Ricki-Lee (Video)

Why are Australian videos so atrocious? "Raining Diamonds" is such an anthem and deserved an epic video to showcase Ricki-Lee's sexy new figure. Instead, she looks like an admittedly thin fool in this tacky trainwreck. The Barbarella-on-a-budget costumes are as ridiculous as they are unsuited to the lyrics - which I interpret as a mantra not to settle for second best in relationships. Don't even get me started on that cheap set and the plastic guns. This clip is so bad it momentarily made me long for Ricki-Lee's underrated fat phase.

6. 25/8 - Mary J. Blige (Video)

Speaking of great songs with shit videos, here's Mary J. Blige's hot mess "25/8". I honestly don't know what the director was thinking. Did he or she even listen to the song before deciding to stick the iconic diva in a room full of broke-down dancers in a twisted bid to re-create Kelly Rowland's awful "Commander" visual?

5. We Love - Sneaky Sound System (Video)

I wonder how the pitch for this national embarrassment went: "Imagine Miss Connie on a pedestal dressed as Marilyn Monroe - only we'll make her up to look like a sweaty mess, complete with a shiny face and smudged make-up. Then we'll have a couple perform random sex acts, you know, classy shit involving anal-beads. Only when the lights come on they're doing really innocuous things like cleaning the house! Amazing, right?"

4. Inescapable - Jessica Mauboy(Video)

Poor Jessica. I really don't understand how someone so pretty in real-life always looks like the before photo on What Not To Wear in her videos. And this lazy effort is heinous even by her low standards. What's with that fucking turban? "Inescapable" is probably the best Australian pop song of 2011 but the only nice thing I can say about this clip is that's an improvement on "Get Em Girls".

3. Fly - Nicki Minaj Feat. Rihanna (Video)

Onika and Rih-cycle wander around a plane crash in couture outfits looking like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee on the set of Lost. The only this missing is Tyra Banks demanding more broken doll poses in this horrendous four minute episode of America's Next Top Model for low-rent whores.

2. All We Have - Natalie Bassingthwaighte (Video)

"All We Have" will go down in history as the Australian filmmaker's guide for what not to do in a music video. Everything about it is embarrassing. I could go on about the lame concept and bad lighting but the clip's biggest sin is making the star of the show look ridiculous. Natalie Bassingthwaigthe resembles an extra from Cocoon squeezed into a dress Lady Gaga rejected during The Fame era. It's not flattering and made worse by the fact she's surrounded by dancers young enough to be her grandchildren. American directors still make Madonna look good and she's a couple of minutes older than Nat - so why can't local talent do the same?

1. Liar Boy - Cindy and Sheila Rhyme (Below)

This was tough. I couldn't decide whether to crown "Liar Boy" the best or worst video of 2011. On the one hand, I'm here for these iconic divas and immediately downloaded their future pop classic from iTunes after seeing the clip. On the other hand, words cannot adequately describe how awful this is. Bad teeth, worse outfits, shocking dance moves and the dodgiest editing in recent memory make "Liar Boy" the most heinous (and hilarious) clip of the year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The 25 Best Videos Of 2011

In 2011 music videos can be separated into three distinct categories - big budget extravaganzas, cheap label-funded clips and do-it-yourself efforts. Not that price is an indication of quality. You can spend millions and still end up with an unforgivable turkey like "Marry The Night". For me, it's all about coming up with something original that suits the song. That could be a coked-up secretary dancing in front of a filing cabinet or a superstar made to look like an extra from Cocoon. The common factor being that I got the urge to go back and watch that shit all over again - obviously for very different reasons. Listed below are my 25 favourite videos of the year. Let me know what I overlooked in the comments.

25. Put Your Hands Up - Kylie (Lyrics Video)

I'd rather read Kylie's stunning lyrics than see your favourite basic bitch strut her stuff in a glossy video. The end.

24. Chinese Walk - Amanda Lear (Video)

Want to see an almost 70-year-old disco legend transform into a young Asian beauty? Well, look no further than "Chinese Walk"! Amanda Lear nailed this half-animated visual extravaganza. It's effective and extremely pretty. Proof that a good idea and competent execution can overcome the smallest of budgets.

23. I'm Still Hot - Luciana (Video)

Luciana told me this high-camp clip was inspired by '80s drag/pop sensation Divine and I'm sure John Waters' favourite gal would approve of the end-result if she were still alive. Basically, the Queen of electro wakes up from a bender and walks around the desert carrying a boombox on her shoulder. We've all been there.

22. Sexy And I Know It - LMFAO (Video)

What can I say? I like watching Redfoo shake his junk!

21. God Sent Me Here To Rock You - Naomi Elizabeth (Video)

Naomi Elizabeth's exquisite self-made visual is better than Lady Gaga's entire videography. From the diva's stunning choreography in front of the filing cabinet she clearly spends her days maintaining to the not-quite-couture outfit she wears in the garden, this is pure gold.

20. Cherubino's Aria - Adya & Geisha (Video)

I'm pretty sure the director of this clip took way to much LSD in the '70s.

19. Gucci Gucci - Kreayshawn (Video)

Kreayshawn and V Nasty make a spectacle of themselves on the street. That's it. Literally. The thing is - "Gucci Gucci" is so full of life. There's no stupid set-up or styling. It's rough and real and better than anything Onika will make in her entire career.

18. Party - Beyoncé (Video)

Sometimes Bey has a tendency to over-think things. Unlike your gutter-ho fave, she's always trying to lift her game to previously unimagined heights and that can backfire on her. This time around she kept it simple. After Googling "poor people pool party" on her diamond encrusted laptop, King B knew what she had to do - hire a trailer park, let Solange out of the dungeon and call up her girl Kelly. The rest is YouTube history.

17. Friday - Rebecca Black (Video)

The most successful viral video in history is a work of unintentional comedic genius. You couldn't have scripted this epic trainwreck. From the hilariously bad graphics to the dumb look on Becky's face and a cameo from the world's shadiest rapper, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Only instead of making it unwatchable, those flaws made "Friday" an instant cult classic that will enjoyed by drunk internet-users for decades to come.

16. Lonely Lisa - Mylène Farmer (Video)

Ballet dancers, sunbeds in the desert and France's answer to Madonna make "Lonely Lisa" an unforgettable experience. Great song too.

15. Big Bad Wolf - Duck Sauce (Video)

The protagonists in this warped masterpiece have a second head where their reproductive organs should be. I still can't decide if I'm turned on or disgusted.

14. Drop It Low - Kat DeLuna (Video)

Queen Kat brings the choreography - and safety helmets - in one of the year's best dance videos.

13. Midnight In Berlin - Barb@zul (Video)

Spain's hottest bear-band finally got around to releasing the sequel to their 2010 internet hit "I Don't Care". That blockbuster was something of a gay soap opera, which ended with Laz dumping Juan for messing around with another man. In the sequel the boys move to Berlin and enter the adult entertainment industry. I think.

12. Pon Pon Pon - Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (Video)

Japan's hottest Harajuku girl dresses up as a toddler, dances around like a possessed oompa loompa in a room full of creepy toys and vomits eyeballs. Could your fave?

11. Wonderland - Natalia Kills (Video)

I had such high hopes for Natalia Kills when I saw her dark and twisted "Wonderland" video. She cleverly re-imagines a bunch of classic fairytales with a distinctly gothic twist. The cinematography and styling is spot on and I love the use of extreme gore in a pop video. How did she morph into such a pathetic Gaga wannabe? Sad.

10. White Nights - Oh Land (Video)

Charming isn't an adjective I'd use to describe a lot of music videos but that's the first word that comes to mind when I think of Oh Land's lovely "White Nights" visual. The Danish singer presents us with a quirky dreamscape in the clip, deftly jumping between surreal scenarios. I particularly love that the former ballerina finally gets to show us her graceful dance moves. Light up a joint and watch this on repeat.

9. Shake It, Shake It - INY (Video)

Korea's hood girlband leaves your faves for dead - literally - in this disturbing masterpiece. The riveting set-up finds the edgy beauties stealing iPods from unsuspecting schoolgirls. Unfortunately, they cross a gangster and spend the rest of the clip being chased around Seoul by a bunch of rapists. Thug life!

8. Move Your Body - Beyoncé (Video)

When she's not running the world, Bey is making sure your kids don't get fat by teaching them how to Dougie. You're welcome.

7. When The Night Falls - Chromeo Feat. Solange Knowles (Video)

Chromeo always deliver the goods but this kooky effort is one of their best. The Canadian dance pioneers spend the clip getting women pregnant with their magical instruments. That is until the ladies revolt and come after the hapless musicians. It's well-conceived, original and stars a Knowles. What more do you want?

6. The One That Got Away - Katy Perry (Video)

Here she is. Shady Katy. I'm surprised the video isn't jam-packed with subliminal messages instructing viewers to download the song from iTunes but maybe she's saving that for her seventh number one. As for the actual clip, I can't fault it. This is beautifully written, directed and acted. Most importantly, it's touching and effortlessly taps into the sentiment of the song. Well done.

5. Play With Me - Chloe Lattanzi (Video)

As a huge fan of her unreleased material, I almost fainted when I heard Chloe Lattanzi had finally unleashed her debut video. After almost a decade of false starts, Olivia Newton-John's amazingly talented but certifiably insane daughter introduced herself to the world by snorting drugs, self-mutilating and repeatedly committing suicide in "Play With Me". I have never been so proud!

4. Sure As Hell Not Jesus - Cosmo Jarvis (Video)

Cosmo stars as a pedophile priest with a Justin Bieber poster above his bed in this mini-movie. Need I say more?

3. Blow - Ke$ha (Video)

While Lady Gaga made 14 minute snoozefests and Rihanna tried to turn Trainspotting into a musical, K$ did something revolutionary. She had fun. "Blow" stands out like Khloe Kardashian's erection at a day spa with its irreverent dialogue and crazy special-effects. I love James Van Der Beek's cameo and the unicorn heads. Someone needs to offer Ke$ha a movie deal!

2. Midnight City - M83 (Video)

Just when you thought that the music video genre was all but dead M83 drop this achingly beautiful clip. "Midnight City" follows a group of kids with special powers who escape from their school/prison and wreak havoc. It's incredibly well done and suits the song perfectly. Make sure you check this out if you haven't already.

1. Run The World (Girls) - Beyoncé (below)

From the moment Bey rides past with her immaculate lacefront blowing in the wind like strands of freshly spun gold, you just knew that this was going to be epic. "Run The World (Girls)" might have used up the entire "4" era video budget in one hit but it was worth it. One minute it's a post-apocalyptic episode of America's Next Top Model, the next it's an African dance showcase. I love the emphasis the clip places on choreography. Who else but Beyoncé would dare to bring the Pantsula to the masses? Re-visit the video of the year below.


Friday, December 16, 2011

The 20 Shadiest Music Moments Of 2011

Is it just me or was 2011 shadier than usual? It seems like every ho with a record deal was caught doing something underhand this year. Perhaps we're just more observant and unnecessarily criticise artists for playing the game. Or maybe the music business is so cut-throat at the moment that you need sticky fingers and a Teflon conscience just to get ahead. In any case, there were no shortage of examples to choose from when I put together my list of 2011's shadiest moments. I'm sure I forgot some essential acts of thievery and bad behaviour - so feel free to remind me in the comments.

20. Kylie's pop-up book debacle

Kylie announced the $199 "Goddess Edition" of her album way back in June. It's now December and still nowhere to be seen. It can't have been easy for Dannii to cut and paste each copy herself between takes on Australia's Got Talent but this whole debacle is starting to feel shadier than a rain forest.

19. Britney's tweets

And the award for the most obviously ghost-written Twitter belongs to Britney. Who do they think they're kidding? We all know Brit is too high on Xanax and Vicodin to stand without assistance, let alone regularly update her social media platforms with tightly-scripted content. Many artists have admin staff running their Twitter - I met the guy being paid to write Taylor Swift's tweets when I was in New York - but Britney's lack of involvement is so obvious that it crosses into shady territory.

18. Lady Gaga inventing Madonna's support

Now this was awkward. At the height of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" controversy (ie. that it's a blatant "Express Yourself" rip-off), the deluded one went on the Jay Leno Show and proudly announced that Madonna sent her an email declaring her love for the song. Unfortunately, the 97-year-old pop icon's publicist denied the exchanged ever happened. How embarrassing!

17. Madonna's mad YouTube skillz

Madonna is the Queen of shade - probably because she sleeps in a crypt and only comes out at night to feed on male models. In the year's shadiest click of a button, the once popular singer rubbed more salt into Lady Gaga's wounds by uploading "Express Yourself" to her YouTube account - a move that was interpreted as a clear jab at Mother Monster.

16. Lady Gaga thanks Whitney Houston

The not-so-subtle feud between Madonna and Lady Gaga continued at the Grammys when the latter thanked Whitney Houston for inspiring "Born This Way" - despite the fact that it sounds like everything Madge recorded in the '80s thrown into a blender. Acknowledging the pop legend's biggest rival was a particularly shady touch.

15. Kelly Rowland releases a greatest hits album - with no hits

Girl, please.

14. Rihanna's bargain bundles

While Katy Perry's price-rigging on iTunes generated loud criticism across the blogosphere, Rihanna's "buy my last album, get my new single for free" deal was inexplicably given a pass. By everyone but me.

13. Beyoncé's "Countdown" choreography

King B stole ten seconds of a dance routine from a random Belgian ballet in her iconic "Countdown" video and faced the wrath of the original choreographer. While I'm usually down with Bey's stunning homages, this particular example was more specific and detailed than usual. It's a clever reference and works brilliantly in the clip but someone could have cleared it with Teresa before the ungrateful bitch went ballistic.

12. Rico Love's beat recycling

It's a common dilemma - a song blows up and everyone wants a piece of the action - but how many times can Rico Love recycle Kelly Rowland's "Motivation"? First came Melanie Fiona's awesome "4am" and now Mary J's equally good "Mr Wrong". Ryan Tedder and RedOne have been doing it for years but this shit is still super shady regardless of the original's quality.

11. Britney's body double

Anyone with eyes can tell that Britney didn't dance in "Hold It Against Me" - I'm convinced her stand-in was actually a man! - but she vehemently denied it. The same accusations were made about Brit's "Til The World Ends" video but this time she was proven to be a shady liar when photos of her body double performing choreography surfaced online. Worst yet is using a body double to make out with her real-life boyfriend in her aptly-titled "Criminal" video. That goes beyond shady into the realm of totally fucked-up.

10. Onika's age

Nicki Minaj is possibly the oldest person nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy in the Award's history. Earlier this year, her cover was blown when a police report outed her as being 28 years old. Until then the poor man's Lil Kim had listed her age as 26. Whoops.

9. Lana Del Ray's entire career

I love Lana Del Slay. She is my new obsession and I still play "Video Games" on repeat. But all this crap about making her own videos and being discovered on YouTube is hard to swallow. This has been a carefully orchestrated exercise in record label shadiness from the beginning. And you know what? It worked. So now she can stop pretending that she does everything from catering to injecting her lips with filler between takes on her self-funded, self-directed and self-styled videos. Something in the tea ain't clean!

8. Flo Rida and Leona Lewis rip off Avicii

Avicii really needs to get a copyright lawyer on retainer. First Leona Lewis steals the Swede's hit instrumental "Penguin" for her gigantic flop "Collide" and then Flo Rida pilfers "Levels" for "Good Feeling". If nothing else all this shadiness has raised the DJ's profile and made him the go-to producer for singers that can't afford David Guetta

7. Jeff Bhasker trashing "Motivation"

Everyone should be able to express their own opinion on Twitter but there was something distinctly shady about the producer behind some of the hottest cuts on Beyoncé's "4" trashing Kelly Rowland's "Motivation" - particularly when Rico Love's production was riding high at #1 on the R&B chart at the time and Bhasker's efforts were getting a lot less love.

6. Kelly Rowland's recycled videos

Sarah Chatfield proved to be the music industry's greenest director when she recycled two videos for Ms Kelly. "Lay It On Me" was a scene-by-scene remake of Livvi Franc's "Now I'm That Bitch", while "Down For Whatever" re-visited Wynter Gordon's "Believer". I'm not sure where the blame lies but this is seriously shady. It's one thing to take an idea and make it better but this was just lazy.

5. Beyoncé's BBMA performance

I have never seen anything like King B's 2011 Billboard Music Award performance. That was next level shit that made your tired fave look like a dusty typewriter in comparison to Bey's shiny, new laptop. But it doesn't change the fact that elements were taken from a previous performance by Lorella Cuccarini. As it turns out the Queen of soul, pop and probably country (if she put her mind to it), hired the Italian singer's producers to re-create the technology - so she can hardly be accused of stealingit. The shadiness results from tarnishing such an iconic moment by using an old idea - regardless of whether she improved on it (she did) or not.

4. Lady Gaga's "Judas" debacle

Mother Monster's sticky fingers worked over time this year. Not only did she blatantly steal "WannaBE" from Loli Lux - using the sexy DJ's exact beats on "Judas" - but she then stole the video concept from Brandy! The similarities to that diva's "Afrodisiac" clip - also choreographed by Laurieann Gibson, funnily enough - are uncanny.

3. Rihanna rapes David LaChappelle's artistic legacy

In a bid to spread her creative wings Rihanna decided to co-direct her "S&M" video. So the Barbadian bonehead flipped through a book of David LaChappelle's photos and basically stole his entire aesthetic. He had the last laugh when she had to cough up the big dollars to keep it out of court. You would have thought Rih-cycle would have learned from stealing M.I.A.'s "Boyz" video concept for "Rude Boy". Shady lady.

2. Katy Perry's price-rigging

I kind of love Katy Perry's creative antics (iTunes discounts, celebrity videos and completely unnecessary remixes) to rack up number one hits in America but it is shady. Can't she just be proud of landing six top 10 hits from the one album? That's an insane achievement! I'm not sure if losing all credibility to squeeze out another couple of chart-toppers is really worth it. Having said all that, I really hope "The One That Got Away" makes it to number one just to annoy everyone!

1. Lady Gaga's 99 cent album deal

The majority of these entries have been tongue-in-cheek. I don't care that Nicki Minaj is a couple of weeks away from menopause and Bey can copy as many Belgian flops as she likes. However, Mother Monster's 99 cent album deal crossed all kinds of lines. At a time when illegal downloading has all but killed the music industry, Lady Gaga gave the year's most highly-anticipated album away for free. Or near enough. If people didn't think mp3s were worthless before, they sure do now. And for what? To get a bogus first week sales record? So lame, so shady, so Gaga.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Elen Levon & Israel Cruz Did Next

It's been a while since we heard new music from Elen Levon and Israel Cruz. The rising Australian pop stars, who previously collaborated on "Naughty", have joined forces again for a new track called "Save My Life". Only this time Israel takes the lead, while Elen lends her powerful pipes to the chorus. The 17-year-old diva's management was quick to point out that their hard-hitting hip-hop anthem is just an interim single. It will only be serviced to The Edge (Sydney's leading urban radio station) and I'm not even sure if there will be a video. Both singers have official second singles due in late January/early February, so I guess this is just a little treat for patient fans. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from "Save My Life" but it's a great little song that showcases the pair's versatility and vocal prowess. The inspirational track hits iTunes on December 29. After the belated success of "Party Up" - and a second wave of "Naughty" promotion on the way - it will be interesting to see how it does. Listen to an unmastered demo below and let me know what you think.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

30 Best Album Tracks Of 2011

Is 2011 really almost over? I feel like it flew by at double speed! Anyway, it's time to let my OCD run wild and put together my annual 'best of' lists. I thought I'd begin with something a bit different this year. Listed below are my 30 favourite album tracks - songs that really should have been released as singles but weren't either due to bad timing, lack of interest or sheer stupidity. I shied away from including gems from recently released triumphs like Kelegend's "Stronger" or Mary J's epic "My Life II" because I'm still hopeful my faves will be sent to radio. Instead, I focused on albums that have more or less finished their run or, in some cases, are awaiting a re-release. There's no real science to this, so take it with a grain of salt. Here goes!

30. Starting Over - Jennifer Lopez (Listen)

Album: Love?

The words "uneven mess" spring to mind when I think of Jenny's comeback album but it does harbor a couple of gems. My favourite non-single has to the Wynter Gordon-penned mid-tempo ballad "Starting Over". This is the perfect fit for J.Lo's restricted vocal range and the lyrics bring an unusually adult perspective to the end of a relationship. Kudos to Danja for actually trying to make the song sound like it was recorded after 2007 - unlike the vast majority of the album!

29. What's A Girl Supposed To Do - Nikki Jean (Listen)

Album: Pennies In A Jar

For someone who was briefly hailed as the next big thing, Nikki Jean came and went with little fanfare. It's a shame because her quirky debut is jam-packed with great tunes. Any number of songs could have made this countdown but I keep coming back to "What's A Girl Supposed To Do". This breezy piece of retro-pop perfection was co-written by the legendary Jeff Barry (Ike and Tina's "River Deep, Mountain High" and The Monkees' "I'm A Believer" to name but two) and it's not an embarrassment to his legacy. High praise indeed.

28. Run - Jessica Mauboy (Listen)

Album: Get Em Girls (Re-Release)

J. Malley hooks up with the producer behind Heidi Montag's "Superficial" album. Lightning strikes twice.

27. Trip To Your Heart - Britney Spears (Listen)

Album: Femme Fatale

With the exception of the heinous "Hold It Against Me", Britney got the singles right this time. The rest of the album is as vacant as the heavily-medicated diva's stare but I have a soft spot for "Trip To Your Heart". This sounds like a reject from "Oops!... I Did It Again" and I mean that as a compliment. It's nice to hear Brit return to the innocent, bubblegum-pop of her hey day. A late fifth single maybe?

26. I'm Not Leaving - Sneaky Sound System (Not uploaded to YouTube)

Album: From Here To Anywhere

I love Sneaky's new album. It's a master class in constructing a cohesive electro-pop opus but - apart from the exquisite "Big" - there aren't a lot of viable singles. That makes the decision not to release "I'm Not leaving" all the more perplexing. This is the big gay anthem that could set fire to the clubs and actually be played on the radio. Think Whitney meets Kylie for some idea of the track's greatness.

25. You Will Be Mine - Lenka (Listen)

Album: Two

Australia's indie-pop princess embraced synths on her sophomore album. She couldn't give it away with a free copy of "21" but I fully approved of her move towards the dancefloor. Particularly, the icily beautiful "You Will Be Mine". Guy Sigsworth (Madonna, Britney and Robyn) knows how to craft a killer pop song and Lenka's quirkiness brings out the best in him. Perhaps the album would have shifted plastic if this was sent to radio instead of the title track. Who knows? It's a chart-topper in my book.

24. Springsteen - Eric Church (Listen)

Album: Chief

Apart from being the sexiest man in music, Eric Church also delivered one of the best albums of 2011. "Chief" is the country equivalent of cock-rock. You know, songs about drinking too much and get getting into trouble with the law. It's great from beginning to end but "Springsteen" stands out as the highlight. Given the snail's pace of country music releases, I'm still hopeful this will be a single. The nostalgic anthem is the crossover track that Eric needs to mix it up with the likes of Lady A and Jason Aldean. I can't recommend this highly enough.

23. Cut Straight To The Heart - Sophie Ellis-Bextor (Listen)

Album: Make A Scene

This delicately crafted synth-ballad reminds me of Sophie's 2003 anthem "Nowhere Without You" - AKA the best single she never released. Unfortunately, history repeated itself and the song is destined to be forgotten by everyone except the handful of desperate MAGs that bought her album. How depressing.

22. Heartbreak Down - P!nk (Listen)

Album: Greatest Hits... So Far!

There was a time when I would cut a bitch for bad-mouthing P!nk. "Try This" ruled my world for most of 2003-2004 and I stayed loyal until she re-released "I'm Not Dead" under the new title of "Funhouse" in 2009. Anyway, my point is that I was pretty much done with Alicia until I heard "Heartbreak Down" on her GH. Butch Walker beats Dr Luke at his own game with his slick production and the lyrics pack a deceptively strong punch. I hear you, sister!

21. The Moon's A Harsh Mistress - Rumer (Not uploaded to YouTube)

Album: Slow (B-Side)

I avoided Rumer for as long as I could but eventually gave in and listened to "Seasons Of My Soul". The English chanteuse sounds eerily similar to Karen Carpenter - so I was basically sold immediately. Any number of tracks should have had Adele-esque success but the balladeer stayed underground. At least in this country. I put it down to the fact that she looks like an extra from Cell Block H. As for "The Moon's A Harsh Mistress" - the B-Side to single "Slow" - Karen is resting her bony arse on a cloud in heaven, listening to this gorgeous cover on repeat.

20. Relapse - Zoë Badwi (Listen)

Album: Zoë

A little birdie told me that "Relapse" is far from Zoë's favourite track on her stunning debut but it pushes my buttons. Sounding like something Sirens could have recorded after putting the finishing touches to their classic Sara-Marie duet, this shot of Hi-NRG pop is more infectious than athlete's foot on a hot summer's day. It's also more radio-friendly than most of the album and would have lent itself to any number of risque video treatments - such as Zoë lounging around in a white latex straight-jacket in a mental asylum. See, I thought of everything!

19. Fuck Him He's A DJ - Ke$ha (Listen)

Album: I Am The Dance Commander + I Command You To Dance: The Remix Album

Everything K$ touches turns to gold - including this three-year-old demo she rescued from the recycle bin on her laptop to pimp out "I Am The Dance Commander". Could your fave?

18. Everybody Needs Love - Jennifer Hudson (Listen)

Album: I Remember Me

Jennifer Hudson's sophomore effort is one of 2011's most perplexing albums. It was bogged down by generic filler and ultimately doomed to failure by some of the craziest single choices in recent memory. BUT the misunderstood opus also boasts flourishes of unmistakable brilliance. Take this sublime Alicia Keys-penned disco anthem. Think of "Everybody Needs Love" as the fabulous sequel to Whitney Houston's "Million Dollar Bill". The song has everything - uplifting lyrics, gargantuan vocals and a funky groove that Loleatta Holloway would have been proud to call her own. Prepare to swoon.

17. Bad Kids - Lady Gaga (Listen)

Album: Born This Way

"B`d Kids" is the kind of music Lady Gaga should be making. It's experimental without sounding like a SNL parody and expertly taps into the near universal theme of teenage alienation. The splashes of '80s rock work surprising well against Fernando Garibay's cute beats and the chorus is something of a triumph. Most of all, I buy this Gaga. I'm sure people hated her at school (probably for being a pretentious cunt), so this track actually feels authentic. A rare commodity on "Born This Way".

16. Mama Hold My Hand - Aloe Blacc (Listen)

Album: Good Things

This is the "Someone Like You" for mama's boys with deep-seated emotional issues. As such, it pretty much destroys me every time I hear it.

15. I Love You - Avril Lavigne (Listen)

Album: Goodbye Lullaby

It boggles the mind that Max Martin and Shellback can churn out a seemingly endless stream of generic radio-hits for Britney but also manage to craft something as simple, pared-back and intrinsically Avril as "I Love You". There's not a bad song on "Goodbye Lullaby" (AKA the "4" of whiny guitar-pop albums) but this is definitely my favourite non-single. It's sweet, honest and just kind of washes over you in a very pleasant way with a minimum of fuss or bother.

14. Miles - Christina Perri (Listen)

Album: Lovestrong

I still can't decide if I love or hate Christina Perri. That stupid blond streak makes me want to slap her and "Jar Of Hearts" is absolutely ridiculous but I loved "Arms" and latched onto this cut from her uneven debut. "Miles" benefits from the guidance of the ever-reliable Greg Kurstin, who reigns in her love of bad metaphors and tendency to ramble. The result is an unusually perky mid-tempo love song with a suitably depressing twist. Please let this be her next single.

13. Dancin' Away With My Heart - Lady Antebellum (Listen)

Album: Own The Night

Country music made a huge impact on my iPod this year, with the all-conquering Lady Antebellum leading the charge. Not since the glory days of Shania Twain has an act walked the fine line between country and pop so effortlessly. I love every song on "Own The Night" but this nostalgic gem makes me melt. It was released as a pre-album promo single but surely a full release beckons? "For me you'll always be 18 and beautiful and dancin' away with my heart". Sigh.

12. Unbroken - Demi Lovato (Listen)

Album: Unbroken

As one third of this generation's holy trio of teen-pop icons (along with Selena and Miley), expectations were high for Demi's post-breakdown comeback. I missed the edgy pop-rock of her earlier albums at first but eventually came around to "Unbroken" and now recognise it as a future classic of "When The Sun Goes Down" proportions. It's hard to pick a favourite but the Leah Haywood-penned title-track definitely stands out as a future hit. This towering synth-pop anthem reminds me of Ricki-Lee's stunning "Raining Diamonds" - only with meaningful lyrics and an even better chorus.

11. Every Rose Has Its Thorn - Miley Cyrus (Listen)

Album: Can't Be Tamed

I know this was released in 2010 but I developed a whole new appreciation for "Can't Be Tamed" after her Australian tour in June. There were a lot of potential singles on that album but her cover of Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" could have been massive. This is such an improvement on the original and leads me to believe that a collection of '80s hair-rock anthems should be high on her 'to do' list.

10. All The Boys - Keri Hilson (Listen

Album: No Boys Allowed

How do you solve a problem like Miss Keri Baby? She is an embarrassment to the human race but I can't help but like her music. Take "All The Boys". This is one of the prettiest ballads in recent memory. I love the romantic sentiment and understated production. It's perfectly tailored to Keri's half-octave vocal range and ranks as a career highlight alongside "Knock Me Down" and "I Like".

9. Gone - Jennifer Hudson (Listen)

Album: I Remember Me

J Hud teams up with openly homophobic super-producer Polow Da Don for an epic re-make of Beyoncé's "Halo". There's no excuse for this not being a single. The mid-tempo ballad is irresistible radio fodder that shamelessly yanks at your heartstrings with its emotional lyrics and soaring, synth-drenched chorus. The line "Can you picture yourself getting older dear with someone else?" is particularly devastating. If Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson ballads float your boat then check this out.

8. I Care - Beyoncé (Listen)

Album: 4

Speaking of King B, you didn't think I'd forget the 16-time Grammy winner/most successful artist of the millennium did you? I had to restrain myself from including every track from "4" and focus on the absolute highlights. One of the songs that grew on me more with each listen is the Jeff Bhasker-produced gem "I Care". This is a downright eerie pop song. The subject matter is unusually dark and destructive yet completely relatable. "I know you don't care too much but I still care" howls Bey against ominous beats and the year's quirkiest guitar solo. I feel her pain.

7. Still Getting Younger - Wynter Gordon (Listen)

Album: With The Music I Die

Wynter Gordon teams up with Australian electro-pop band Pnau for one of 2011's best dance anthems. This really is a marriage made in heaven. Winnie channels her inner-Donna Summer, while the producers take inspiration from "Fever"-era Kylie to deliver a knock-out punch. I know this was considered for the album's third single but was overlooked in favour of the admittedly fabulous "Buy My Love". Surely, there's still time for "Still Getting Younger" to have its moment in the sun? Discerning pop fans need this on their iPod.

6. Superman - Taylor Swift (Listen)

Album: Speak Now

"I watch Superman fly away, you got a busy day today" chirps Tay Tay annoyingly in this ridiculous piece of country-pop fluff. Listen, I'm not proud that this stunning bonus-track got lodged in my brain and refused to leave. After all, I have fully-formed boy parts and remember the '90s. But after months of fighting the urge to play this trash on repeat, I finally gave in. And you know what? I'm no longer ashamed. Team Taylor for the win!

5. Say Yes - Nicole Scherzinger (Listen)

Album: Killer Love

How many singles did my best friend Nicole release in 2011? 4 or 5? I've lost count. Most of them were solid choices but there's still no excuse for overlooking "Say Yes" - AKA the best RedOne song not stolen by Lady Gaga in 2011. Everything about this is epic. From the pleading chorus to Hitzinger's soaring vocal, this is top-notch pop and would have been massive.

4. End Of Time - Beyoncé (Listen)

Album: 4

I could, and probably will at some point, write a thesis about Beyoncé's bizarre choice of singles this era. The world just wasn't ready for next-level pop like "Run The World (Girls)", while "Best Thing I Never Had" was a tad too safe by comparison but nothing sticks in my craw like the shocking failure to release "End Of Time". This was the album's big radio hit. A glorious pop anthem with a monster chorus drenched in brass and interesting beeps and bleeps courtesy of Diplo and Switch. I really hope Bey makes a video for this triumphant masterpiece after giving birth to baby Jayoncé - from her vagina because she's really pregnant, haters! - in the same way she knocked out a last-minute clip for "Why Don't You Love Me?" This game-changer deserves to be heard.

3. Hair - Lady Gaga (Listen)

Album: Born This Way

It really pains me to say nice things about Lady Gaga but "Born This Way" was worth the $0.99 for this song alone. "Hair" shits all over rubbish like "Marry The Night" and "Judas". RedOne's best non-Kat DeLuna production of 2011 should have been the lead single, followed by "Edge Of Glory" and then "Bad Kids" or that lame (but secretly amazing) song about unicorns. That would have made this era bearable. But back to "Hair". The craziest thing about this anthem is that people still think it's about follicles. Gaga is clearly using hair as a metaphor for freedom and identity - two themes that make the track both powerful and uplifting.

2. Burn - Clare Maguire (Listen)

Album: Light After Dark

Sounding like Sophie Ellis-Bextor's earthier, chain-smoking cousin, Clare Maguire made a lot of people sit up and take notice with "Light After Dark". Unfortunately none of the singles made a huge splash on the charts, which probably has something to do with the fact that the best song on the album was relegated to bonus track status. "Burn" is - hands down - one of the best pop songs of 2011. It's a beautifully written synth-pop anthem with an unusually wistful chorus that showcases Clare's powerful pipes. I've had this on repeat all year and still love it as much as the first time I heard it. Very highly recommended.

1. Schoolin' Life - Beyoncé (below)

Album: 4

The best album track of 2011 - by quite some margin - is "Schoolin' Life". Bey's educational anthem sums up everything I love about "4". It cleverly mixes influences from pop giants like Prince, Michael Jackson and La Toya to create something completely untamed and original. Which other major pop diva would dare to release a meandering retro-pop tune that hands out life advice against a bed of synths not heard since 1984? It's brave, different and completely uncommercial. Every line is quotable and I love the rich vein of humour that runs through the song. When all is said and done, I don't care that "4" is only the 7th highest selling album of 2011. My fave guided the masses to happiness and fulfilment in five incredibly catchy minutes. Yours had to run around naked in a field, singing generic trash to get a hit. I win. Bye.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Korean Pop God Covers Beyoncé

King B is on something of a tear at the moment. The Grammys might have snubbed "4" but it has been praised in every year-end 'best of' list I've had the pleasure of reading (from Rolling Stone to MTV and BBC) and "I Was Here" has already bulleted to #168 on the iTunes pop chart in Australia. Could your fave? If you need further proof of Bey's world domination, check out this epic cover of "I Miss You" by Korean superstar Taeyang. The K-Pop god, who is better known as the hottest member of boyband Big Bang, uploaded his version of the Frank Ocean-penned ballad to YouTube earlier today and won immediate praise from fans. To be honest I was expecting the worst after witnessing the massacre of "Halo" at the hands of these K-flops in Sydney recently but this is great. Taeyang sounds amazing. His pronunciation is spot on and he gets that less is more with this composition. It's clear that Beyoncé runs Korea too. You will deal.


Ke$ha Revolutionises Hip-Hop With Sleazy Remix

Ke$ha has been quiet for the past couple of months but she's gearing up to squirt her glitter gun all over your Christmas lunch with an era-defining remix of "Sleazy". The hard-hitting urban hitmaker has roped in some of her equally edgy friends to give the track a radical makeover. Lil Wayne, T.I., Wiz Khalifa and Andre 3000 have all shot their loads over the future Yuletide classic - so expect lyrical bliss. Some fans are not impressed but I think this is a genius move. K$ has already conquered pop music, so she might as well steal Nicki Minaj's bargain-basement wig while she's at it. The 30 second preview (below) doesn't give much away but it's clearly a game-changing anthem and I know you will all be online at midnight to download "Get Sleazier" from Aus iTunes on Decemeber 14. Make sure to gift the track to your nearest and dearest. This is the flawless gem your niece, nephew, children and/or grandparents have been waiting for!

EDIT: Listen to the full version below. AMAZING!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

International Diva Update

With the end of the year looming and my annual 'best of' festival on the horizon, I thought I should try to cover as much music as possible before being completely swamped. So here are three posts rolled into one! And happily, there's even a common theme - all of these exquisite divas sing in a foreign language and were born some time around the discovery of electricity. The first track that you need to hear belongs to 50-year-old pop icon Mylène Farmer. "Du Temps" is the lead single from her latest greatest hits compilation and, as you would expect from the French Madonna, it's completely age-inappropriate dance trash. I am still obsessed with Mylène's "Bleu Noir" album but I feel that this is something of a disappointment. Don't get me wrong. It's a lot of fun but the darkness and beauty of her recent work is missing. I guess a bitch can't be deep and meaningful all the time! Anyway, the video finds the ageless Queen of clubs struggling to do bad choreography - so it's completely defining. Please tell me this will be released physically in France because my Mylène collection needs a new addition.



Next up is Mexican pop icon Paulina Rubio. I really can't believe I haven't featured this stunning goddess on my blog before now. After all, she's been one of my faves since "Don't Say Goodbye" became an unexpected top 20 Australian hit way back in 2002. Since then she's been busy ruling the Latin pop scene and took some time out to start a family. The 40-year-old stunner clearly has her eye on Belinda's Mexican pop crown because she roped in the big guns for her new single. "Me Gustas Tanto" was produced by RedOne and sounds like something Kat DeLuna recorded in 2007. Yes, it's that amazing! I love every second of this hot mess and think it should be a worldwide number one smash. If only she spent as much money on the video. Basically, Pau wears a couple of really bad wigs and looks like she fell into a vat of glitter. You just know Thalia is currently watching the clip on repeat in a jealous rage!



Last and least, is flawless Ukrainian pop diva Kamaliya. Her biggest claim to fame is winning the 2008 Mrs World contest - basically a flop beauty pageant for middle-aged married women! I'm sure she slayed the field. After all, she bears a striking resemblance to Stifler's mum. But I digress. "Crazy In My Heart" was supposed to Kamaliya's all-conquering UK debut but something tells me it didn't work out because I'm yet to see her on any chart. Her website proudly boasts that the song was remixed by Digital Dog and Buzz Junkies, so hopefully it becomes a club smash. To be honest, I kind of love it. Most Eurovision contestants would draw the line at releasing something this camp! The video is even more over the top. She rolls around in water and wears the rattiest black wig this side of Bankstown. In other words, it's an era-defining masterpiece. Watch in awe below.


I Can't Believe I Love A Band Called Snakadaktal

My favourite song at the moment belongs to a five-piece band from Melbourne called Snakadaktal. Ok, let's just get this out of the way - WORST NAME EVER. To make matters worse, it's apparently an amalgamation of the words snake and pterodactyl. Which is just stupid because snakes have two doodles and pterodactyls only had one hole. I think. So how are they supposed to reproduce? While you contemplate that mind-bending dilemma, let's return to their music. "Air" is one of the best songs of 2011. A delicately constructed indie-pop anthem that deftly borrows elements from fellow aural LSD-purveyors MGMT and Empire Of The Sun, the hypnotic track is an atmospheric triumph. You can almost feel the sunshine poking through a canopy of trees in an enchanted forest full of snakadaktals during the chorus. It's a brilliant debut that deserves to be massive. Make sure you check out the simple but effective smoke-filled video (below).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CD of the Day, 11/22/11: David Mead-Dudes


Longtime readers of this site know that I'm a big David Mead fan, but his last release, 2009's Almost and Always, left me a little cold. It was an admirable effort as Mead's songwriting skills continued to shine, but musically it was a bit too subdued (no pun intended). So I was excited to hear that he enlisted the help of Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger (who produced his 2001 release Mine and Yours) for this record, hoping he'd return to a more upbeat - dare I say - power pop sound. And for the most part my hopes have been fulfilled, as Dudes may be Mead's most consistently engaging album since his audacious 1998 debut The Luxury of Time.

When he's at his best, Mead can seamlessly transition from a power pop gem to a brilliant ballad that sounds like a standard to what almost seems a showtune and back again. "I Can't Wait" opens the disc, and it's a fine midtempo number with a rolling melody that's reminiscent of the style found on his 2004 album Indiana. "King of the Crosswords" follows, and it's a rousing pop tune (complete with sax) about a crossword puzzle prodigy. Another standout is "Guy on Guy", which finds Mead at his lyrical best about a man who finds himself attracted to other men and features an old-time melody and a playful trombone. "Bocce Ball" is a quick 2-minute ditty with a Latin lilt that's insanely catchy (try getting its "bocce, bocce, bocce ball" chorus out of you head). The title track is another highlight; although the word "dude" begs not to be taken seriously, the song itself is a mature, melodic track and one of Mead's best.

The second half of the disc starts off in power pop mode with "Happy Birthday, Marty Ryan", probably Mead's most electric guitar-centric song in years, and also features "No One Roxx This Town No More", a R&B-inflected, ultra-catchy pop number that's of a piece with "Chatterbox" off 2006's Tangerine. And the holiday-themed "The Smile of Rachael Ray" is the kind of "instant classic"-sounding tune that seems to come second nature to him. The album closes with another winner: "Knee Jerk Reaction", a Paul Simon-like number reminiscent of "Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard". Dudes is a welcome return to form for Mead, and without a doubt one of 2011's best.

iTunes

Also, it's highly worth your while (especially if you're relatively new to David Mead) to pick up this free 25-song sampler from Noisetrade, which features many of his classic tracks, some fine unreleased material, and the title track and "I Can't Wait" from Dudes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Two for Tuesday, 11/15/11

Greg Pope-Monster Suit (Original Soundtrack). The pope of power pop (or should we just call him the "power pope"?) is back with another collection of top-drawer tracks, but this time with a twist. Not only has he taken the world of independent power pop by storm, but now his creative energies have been turned towards independent film as he's on the verge of releasing "Giant Monster Playset", a short film he wrote and directed. Monster Suit is the soundtrack to the short film, but it's not a collection of incidental music with a few songs scattered among it. Instead, it's a full-length disc that stands on its own and fits right in with his previous releases. There's a lot to like here, from the heavy, cascading guitar rock of "Modern Plaything" to the melodic pop of "Soulless Heart" to the anthemic "Hero". The acoustically-strummed "The Chance You Don't Take" harkens back to Pope's Edmund's Crown days, and "Place on the Hill" sounds like a lost classic rock gem. Pope's been on quite the creative run the last few years, and we're all enjoying the ride.

CD Baby | iTunes



The Liarbirds-Allegedly. This Greek band caught my attention in 2008 with their debut EP Second Quartet, and three years later they've emerged with an impressive full-length followup. They have an easy, melodic sound that brings Teenage Fanclub, The Byrds and Cosmic Rough Riders to mind, and opener "Chewing Gum" is an impressive statement to this end, as it merges laid-back verses with an intense power pop chorus. "Running Mind" is another breezy wonder, and "Fortune Tells May Tell You" will have you thinking you're listening to Daniel Wylie's latest. "Soul Keeper" has a retro-60s vibe, while "Disarray" finds them in good form on a slower number. An impressive record, and it's nice to see good news out of Greece for a change these days.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Friday, November 4, 2011

New music Friday.

Michael Oliver & The Sacred Band-Yin & Yanxiety. Boston's (by way of Buffalo) Michael Oliver has an interesting resume that includes time in a 90s power pop band (Buffalo's Go, Dog, Go!) and a graduate degree from Harvard. So it's no surprise that his latest effort with The Sacred Band, Yin & Yanxiety, boasts both a clever title and intelligent lyrics. But what makes it potentially one of 2011's best are the great tunes and consummate popcraft that he displays here. Oliver displays a variety of pop sounds here - the Matthew Sweet meets Tom Petty opener "Complicated", the Brian Wilson-inspired "Neverlast", and the twee indie pop of "Tell Me What You're Dreaming". But where Oliver finds his most consistent mark is when he goes with straight-up, melodic mid-tempo pop in the vein of Michael Penn, Cliff Hillis and David Grahame with tracks like "Love While it Lasted", "Little Miss Oblivious" and "Stranger from Another Planet". And the best part of all is that there isn't one clunker among the 13 tracks here. I'll close by saying that you should be yanxious to get this one added to your collection.

CD Baby | iTunes

Sam Hawksley-Somewhere in My Mind. Aussie Sam Hawksley has been a consistent purevyor of catchy folk/pop/rock for several years now, but his fifth and latest album might be his best. This may be the result of much of the album being recorded in Nashville, and at times it's reminiscent of another Aussie-gone-Nashville, Bob Evans. The bright, engaging "Thinking About You" is an excellent opener that fits Hawksley's strengths, and "Flying High in the USA" has a bit of a Jayhawks feel to it. Meanwhile, "She's Out Breakin' Hearts" is a fine Tom Petty-style rocker, "Save My Life" boasts a great guitar hook in the chorus, and "Stranger to You Now" and "I Wish" feature some excellent harmonies from Kim Richey and Hillary Lindsey. If you haven't been familiar with Hawksley's fine catalog until now, this is an excellent place to start.

CD Baby | iTunes